Premier problems

MANNING Hockey Association president Craig Colvin will meet with officials from Port Macquarie early next week to determine how many clubs from the Hastings will be involved in the Manning competition this year.

However, it appears that only one side - Port City - will be playing here. There were two last season.

This will reduce the number of teams in the competition to four. Formerly known as the Mid North Coast Premier League, the competition will revert to Manning A-grade at least for this year.

Mr Colvin admits he isn't sure what the makeup of the Hastings side will be - whether it will be an amalgam of the two clubs from last year or largely made up of players from Port City's 2013 roster.

"I'll know more next week after I've spoken to them,'' he said.

He concedes only having four sides in the elite competition is 'a bit of a worry.'

The Mid North Coast Premier League started in 1998 and originally there were eight sides from the Manning and Port Macquarie involved. The inaugural competition ended in a controversial manner when the scheduled final between Tigers didn't go ahead when Chatham wasn't able to field a side.

The final was to be played on a Sunday and Chatham officials said the side had four players unavailable while their B-grade side had three catch-up games on the same day, meaning they couldn't field a team. Tigers were eventually declared the premiers.

Despite this the premier league was described by officials as a success. However, Manning sides have been dominant in just about every year since and the number of teams has gradually dwindled.

Mr Colvin confirmed this year's A-grade competition will again feature games in Port Macquarie.

"It will be home and away,'' he said.

However, the grand final will be played along with the other Manning deciders at the Manning Hockey Centre, even if Port City wins the major semi-final. Under premier league rules this would have enabled Port to host the grand final.

Mr Colvin said the competition will now revert to Manning rules and bylaws which ensures the grand final will be at Taree.

This will also end the problem officials had in scheduling two grand finals each year - one for the premier league and the other for the A-grade premiership. The grand finals were usually played a week apart - the premier league followed by the A-grade and usually involved the same teams. Players complained of having to play one grand final then stay motivated for a second match seven days later.

Mr Colvin stressed that the premier league isn't past its use-by date.

He believes there could even be a chance of starting a competition that could take in sides from the Manning to Coffs Harbour.

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